Try natural weed control if you want to avoid sprays

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2015

By Jordan Shipton

Cooperative Extension Intern

Weeds can be prickly, poisonous, unsightly, hard to kill and an overall obnoxious pain. Yet, some home owners and gardeners are hesitant to spray chemicals to control these unwanted plants. If the idea of spraying chemicals around your family or food makes you nervous, then perhaps you should consider solarization or plastic mulch as a way to control weeds around your home and garden.

First, let me explain what plastic mulch is, it is merely a sheet of plastic that is laid on the ground to help control weeds. It is used commonly with tomatoes and strawberries at larger farms, such as Patterson Farm.

The color of the mulch can vary, but to kill weeds, I recommend black plastic due to a recent trial conducted at Rowan County Cooperative Extension. To have the best success with solarization, the plastic needs to be used for at least four weeks in the hottest part of the summer.

In the trial, we covered a patch of the weed nutsedge. Half of the patch was covered with black plastic trash bags (we used what was available at the office), and the other half was covered with a clear plastic.

The clear plastic had a greenhouse effect on the nutsedge, causing it to grow larger, while the black plastic killed the weed. This was due to a buildup of heat under the plastic that killed the plants by blocking light, which plants need in order to grow and produce sugars.

So, if you have unwanted weed patches in your yard, try solarization and placing black plastic over the patch and holding it down with some stone, bricks, sticks or whatever is available. Although this method may take a couple more weeks to be effective than the traditional herbicide, it may be worth it to provide you peace of mind by not using chemicals around your family.

This method works best during the summer when the temperatures rise to levels that can kill the weeds. Now, go give solarization a try before the weather starts to cool down, and get your landscape looking top notch for fall.